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The Uncalculated History of Mechanical Calculators.

My recent meet with the Pope jogged my memory about the existence of such forgotten gadgets as the arithmometer. The device being used may still be remembered by some in my generation, while to younger generations the ‘contraption’ is an antique – a relic from eons ago – when there was no Facebook (imagine?), and not even any Internet (WHAT?!).

But on this pre-digital analog bit of kit once the accounting of the whole world depended, and more besides. Therefore, this post is all about arithmometers, because history is worth knowing – especially when it’s as intriguingly quaint as this :).

What an invention! Of course, you could read all about it on Wikipedia, but here I’ll give you a summary of what are, IMHO, the highlights.

Mechanical calculators appeared… more than 2000 years ago! The ancient Greeks used them! What, didn’t you know? I kind of did, but – once again (eek!) – my memory later failed me. So I looked up the details to refreshen those synapses.

Aha – here she is, the beut! The Antikythera mechanism – originating one or two centuries BC; that is – 2100+ years ago!

The Antikythera mechanism is an ancient analog computer and orrery used to predict astronomical positions and eclipses for calendrical and astrological purposes, as well as the Olympiads, the cycles of the ancient Olympic Games.

Found housed in a 340 millimeters× 180 millimeters× 90 millimeter wooden box, the device is a complex clockwork mechanism composed of at least 30 meshing bronze gears. Its remains were found as one lump, later separated into three main fragments, which are now divided into 82 separate fragments after conservation works. Four of these fragments contain gears, while inscriptions are found on many others. The largest gear is approximately 140 millimeters in diameter and originally had 223 teeth. (Wikipedia)

Oh those Greeks!

Fast forward some 1600 years, and the next example of a mechanical calculator gets drawn by Leonardo da Vinci. That device was a 16-bit adding machine with 10-tooth cogs.

Another long pause – of 120 years…

Surviving notes from Wilhelm Schickard in 1623 report that he designed and had built the earliest of the modern attempts at mechanizing calculation. His machine was composed of two sets of technologies: first an abacus made of Napier’s bones, to simplify multiplications and divisions first described six years earlier in 1617, and for the mechanical part, it had a dialed pedometer to perform additions and subtractions.

Two decades later…

Blaise Pascal designed [a] calculator to help in the large amount of tedious arithmetic required; it was called Pascal’s Calculator or Pascaline. 

30 years later – the ‘stepped reckoner’… 

– A digital mechanical calculator [was] invented by the German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. It was the first calculator that could perform all four arithmetic operations. Its intricate precision gearwork … was somewhat beyond the fabrication technology of the time.

And after that, a veritable arms calculator race ensued…

[In 1674 came] Samual Morland’s ‘arithmetical machine’ by which the four fundamental rules of arithmetic were readily worked “without charging the memory, disturbing the mind, or exposing the operations to any uncertainty” (regarded by some as the world’s first multiplying machine).

In 1709…

[Giovanni] Poleni was the first to build a calculator that used a pinwheel design.

And here come the warm jets real arithmometers, not their precursors…

Thomas de Colmar‘s [arithmometer] became the first commercially successful mechanical calculator. Its sturdy design gave it a strong reputation of reliability and accuracy and made it a key player in the move from human computers to calculating machines that took place during the second half of the 19th century.

Its production debut of 1851 launched the mechanical calculator industry, which ultimately built millions of machines well into the 1970s [!!!!]. For forty years, from 1851 to 1890, the arithmometer was the only type of mechanical calculator in commercial production and it was sold all over the world. During the later part of that period two companies started manufacturing clones of the arithmometer: Burkhardt, from Germany, which started in 1878, and Layton of the UK, which started in 1883. Eventually about twenty European companies built clones of the arithmometer until the beginning of WWII.

Meanwhile in Russia, in the same decade (1850-1860), Pafnuty Chebyshev made the first Russian arithmometer.

Less than a generation later, another resident of Russia (a Swedish immigrant engineer) began line manufacture of the Odhner Arithmometer

From 1892 to the middle of the 20th century, independent companies were set up all over the world to manufacture Odhner’s clones and, by the 1960s, with millions sold, it became one of the most successful type[s] of mechanical calculator ever designed.

Fast forward to September 28, 2016, and a certain Eugene Kaspersky gives Pope Francis one such Odhner Arithmometer:

Its industrial production officially started in 1890 in Odhner’s Saint Petersburg workshop.

Read on: A bit of subjunctive mood…

Back to the Old House.

Novorossiysk is also my hometown! I was born here 50.5 years ago. My family lived in this here building – 21, Revolution of 1905 Street – for many years. We moved away in the early seventies to Khlebnikovo in the Moscow Region, which is where I started going to school.

Here’s number 21:

In this yard I played in the sandbox, rode my first bicycle, and climbed the apricot and mulberry trees… Oh, the nostalgia!

Read on: And this is how the building looked in 2002…

Flickr photostream

Instagram photostream

The ‘Masterpiece’ button.

Congratulations to all those who guessed! I now have a Sony-A7 camera [as well as a business, kids and family] hanging round my neck, plus a couple of lenses – a “standard” and a wide angle. Here they are together:

sony-1

So, what can I say about it? As expected, there were no real surprises! The picture quality is superb compared to the same manufacturer’s point-and-shoot (DSC RX100-II). You can see it with the naked eye. But there are still some people with their Lightrooms and other shamanic processing rituals who are wiping their sweaty palms, desperate to show me all kinds of manuals on professional image processing. Yeah, right! I’ve got better things to do than spend hours tinkering with nano-masterpieces, whose total time of public viewing will be less than the time it took to process. No thank you! I need something more straightforward. A couple of runners to move back and forth or up and down a little, a few buttons to press, then cut off what is not necessary – 30 seconds and it’s ready!

But the shots taken with this new camera truly are something else, especially after some minor processing:

Somewhere over the Middle East // Где-то над Ближним Востоком

A photo posted by Eugene Kaspersky (@e_kaspersky) on

In other words, this camera has the “masterpiece” button that I have long been looking for – unsuccessfully – on other [point-and-shoot] cameras!

I have to say that overall I like it, but there are some questions that still need to be answered. And a few comments.

  1. The camera has a Wi-Fi option meaning you can post your photos to the Internet or upload them to a smartphone or a computer. My first thought was – what about security? Perhaps I should take this smart device to our security experts to be checked? I’d be really interested to know how safe this IoT-device is in terms of the external cyber influences.

// If things carry on like this, we’ll soon have toothpicks with Wi-Fi that immediately send a picture of tooth decay to your dentist.

  1. And what do we need all these extra black wheels for at the front and rear? I moved them around and saw no difference. Or maybe I didn’t turn them hard enough. Perhaps I’ll find the answer later on when I finish reading the manual that takes time. Lot of time. And memory.

Drawbacks:

  1. It’s not pocket-sized! And I doubt I will ever wear jeans with pockets big enough :) // Ideal size for a kangaroo though.
  1. The battery only lasted for 300 photos. What am I supposed to do in Kamchatka?? I’d need to take 10 batteries with me for a week’s travel! Or a power pack for a week? Actually, last time we took solar batteries – they weren’t all that heavy and helped us a lot with the point-and-shoot cameras. Maybe they’ll help with more energy-hungry equipment? I’ll let you know soon.
  1. And by the way, where’s the flash? What do you mean there’s “no flash”? No flash at all?? You’re kidding!? … And so what now? … I guess I’ll have to keep that point-and-shoot camera – with its built-in flash – in my back pocket.

 

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A third (photographic) way.

A few months ago I had a week or so in China visiting areas less-traveled by non-Chinese tourists. It was fantastic – all the more so as it felt ‘exclusive’ and properly ‘going native’. I tried my best to get as much of the experience into memory – my own, that is; but human memories and digital memories these days – you can’t really compare them, especially with one of them fading fast ). So if you can’t beat it – use it. Which is what I did: I used plenty of gigabytes of digital-photographic memory – but not in a super-duper and super-heavy digital SLR, but in my run-of-the-mill pocket Sony – my ‘travel soap dish’, as I call it. I then uploaded it all to my archive for future reference, to help jog my memory in years to come…

Like I say, the China trip was fantastic. But there was so much of the breathtakingly beautiful that it wouldn’t all fit into the viewfinder of my soap dish. I’d long suffered this lack of horsepower what with insisting on traveling light and forgoing the semi-pro mobile photographic studios, but never really minded. But that ‘suffering’ came to a swift end while in China. Specifically, in Jiuzhaigou

…While there, I finally took pity on my fellow traveler, A.Sh., who’d be hauling around with him for the whole trip a very fancy and big and heavy Nikon camera bag. I took a turn to haul it about, giving his shoulder some much-needed respite. But then I got all curious. I started prodding it and twisting dials and lenses and even pressing the ‘shoot’ button. There was so much awesome scenery everywhere, it was hard not to. Then, back at the hotel that evening I looked at the results on the laptop. And that was when I had my eureka moment. I took one look at those semi-pro-looking pics, couldn’t believe I’d taken them, and decided there and then: that’s it; soap dish days are over. It’s time to upgrade/overhaul/paradigm-shift/tectonic-shift! No matter how much heavier and more cumbersome: it’s worth it!

mylnica-1

Read on: No more soap dishes!…

Whisky in the jar.

Not all trademarks make much sense. Especially where whisky is concerned

For example, the other day, I was wandering through the night in Jerusalem like a proper tourist. I sat down on a bench some bar, I can’t even remember its name. But I can remember their menu promising me ‘Monkey Shoulder’ whisky. I was astonished, but not for long. The name didn’t quite do it for me. But there you go. No Talisker, no Jura, no Macallan. Not even Glenfiddich or the notorious Chivas. Ladies and Gentlemen! We give you …. ‘Monkey Shoulder’.

DSC03262

Read on: a few more “whiskys” I recall …

2013 – hardly unlucky for us… 2014 – up all year to get lucky.

As per tradition, the festive season for KL kicked off with our Christmas/New Year shindig – this year on the already decidedly tipsy December 20.

The following week another tradition was duly observed – the annual tour of every room in the office by Santa (me) and his little helpers, which this year also took in some of our neighbors‘ offices, to personally wish everyone personally a merry Christmas and a happy upcoming New Year.

DSC05450

+ two snow queens + one snow queen Read on: 2013 – hardly unlucky for us… 2014 – up all year to get lucky.

The leader who gave the world hope.

Ladies and gentlemen!

Today is a special jubilee of the greatest living person on earth. Today is the 90th birthday of Lee Kuan Yew, the founder and indisputable leader of the city-state of Singapore, without whom Singapore today would be a very different place. This is the man who turned a backward non-entity of a place into a flourishing nation, a dream city – an example for all the other countries in the world.

So what was Singapore like before?

In 1965 Singapore didn’t just become independent as many nations do – it was forced to become independent after having been thrown away much like unwanted garbage. It was a tiny group of undeveloped islands with very little going for it, which no one in their right mind considered either credible or potentially viable. People in their right mind tended not to consider it at all in the first place.

What was it like?

  • It was wretched territory – marshland and an overall mess of a territory on which pigs and cows grazed.
  • No natural wealth, not even drinking water (and apparently still none).
  • Unfriendly (to put it mildly) neighboring countries.
  • A semiliterate population, and a strong communist influence (including outside support).
  • Interethnic conflicts; a population made up of Chinese, Malay and Hindus – three very different religions.

Bonuses:

  • Organized crime.
  • No army; no loyal police force.
  • Corruption with a very BIG capital letter.
  • Besides the British military base and the sea ports there was practically no other business at all.

Enough?

Dirt, poverty and nothing to look forward to. That was in 1965.

After 25 years of reforms (yes, as early as in 1990) it was a completely different place…

More: rapidly growing economy, no corruption, rule of law, people dreaming living there. A paradise…